“The opponents make an emotional issue that these are the last acres available when in fact they’re not."
These are the words of Peter Goldmark, Commissioner of Public Lands in Washington, as part of his response on KUOW to the conservation community's opposition to 200+ acres of clear-cutting he approved yesterday. Though the trees being logged are younger trees, they are closely adjacent to known nesting trees and within a block of forest identified as some of the highest-quality marbled murrelet nesting habitat in in Washington State.
Goldmark is clearly out of touch with what "the opponents" are doing, with what is happening to the forests he manages, and is on his way to leaving a legacy of destruction and degradation or our state forest lands.
Firstly, opponents are not making this an emotional issue. We are not tree-hugging cry babies. We are asking the Department of Natural Resources, which manages 1.3 million acres of forest state trust land within the range of the marbled murrelet, to heed the recommendations in the 2008 Science Team Report the DNR funded. Our lower lips do not even quiver when we ask DNR to do this.
I attended the Tuesday meeting of the Board of Natural Resource, which reviews all timber sales before (mostly) approving them. I spoke at this meeting as did several members of the conservation community, including the Olympic Forest Coalition, the Sierra Club, and the dedicated lawyers at the Washington Forest Law Center. These--and many other conservation organizations (aka "the opposition") are passionate about murrelets, and owls, and forests in the Evergreen State,
But passionate is not the same as emotional. We ground our comments in the best-available science. Though we might express that we are fond of marbled murrelets, we do not sob or plead.
Nor do we tear up when we suggest that the DNR use a precautionary principle and complete its long-overdue Long-Term Conservation Strategy for the Marbled Murrelet before considering clear-cuts within large blocks of nesting habitat. This strategy is now in the works, but seems the DNR is not inclined to ensure it is a solidly science-based document, one that serves the trust beneficiaries and the wildlife.
Peter Goldmark's comment--that we believe the 200 acres of forest he and his board approved unanimously on Tuesday are the "last acres available" is not true. No one has said this.
Since logging began in earnest in Washington in the 1840s, we have lost 90% of our mature and old-growth forests. Are the "last acres" in the remnant 10% of these forests?
According to a 2012 report on the status of the Lower 48 marbled murrelets published by a team of highly respected murrelet biologists, Washington State has suffered the largest losses of nesting habitat between 1996 and 2006--more than Oregon, more than California. The 2012 Annual Report of the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife states, "From 1996 to 2006, model-defined potential nesting habitat in Washington declined by an estimated 252, 600 ac out of 2.3 million ac (~11%). Most of this loss (>90%) was attributed to timber harvest."
The remaining 2.05 milion acres exist not in one contiguous block, but in fragments and patches on federal, state, and private land across western Washington. Marbled murrelet nesting habitat on these acres is being lost primarily through logging on non-federal lands. These fragmented forests are being further lost through windstorms, such as the one in December of 2007 that took out an estimated 2000 acres of occupied habitat. It is being lost through disease and fire. We have lost 90% of our forests incrementally--through industrial-scale logging and through a thousand small cuts.
How many acres are the last acres? Do Peter Goldmark and the BNR know "in fact" where these last acres are? And will they stop rubber-stamping timber sales when we identify them? And do they mean "in fact" acres--as in more than one acre--so 2 acres? Or will they use the more technical definition of, say, 1.5 acres?
By this point, yes, we will all be sobbing and pleading.
Meanwhile, read or listen to the KUOW report here.